Amidst the tutorial centers that have recently mushroomed in the metro’s school districts, one name stands out—AHEAD Tutorial & Review Center.  For one thing, they’re the most visible.  Their billboards, featuring celebrity students Maxene Magalona and Andrei Felix, are lodged along EDSA, Katipunan, and even North and South Expressways.  They have two branches in shopping malls, one in SM Megamall and the other in Robinsons Galleria. For another, they’re distinguished by experts.

Just last May 1, 2004, AHEAD was named “Most Outstanding Learning Center” by the Asia-Pacific Awards Committee at the AFP Theater.  The award is AHEAD’s third recognition from a consumers group.  Late last year, it received citation from the National Consumer Affairs Foundation and the Consumers League of the Philippines.

Operating since 1995, AHEAD has helped create Filipino interest in supplementary education and test preparation.  Before it came into the scene, tutoring was basically offered at home by retired teachers and moms with free time.  College entrance review classes were conducted once a year by small outfits.

What AHEAD did was to dissolve people’s perception of tutorials as only for slow learners and underachievers, projecting tutorial and review students as winners—class leaders and honor students.  Review classes for college entrance tests have now become a trend among young people.  Students from competitive private schools, in particular, have discovered the advantage of advancing their lessons and guided study.

In 2002, AHEAD organized a “school fair-in-a-mall” at Glorietta, Makati City to celebrate their review students’ admission to Ateneo, La Salle, and UP.  Inviting school bands and MTV veejays, AHEAD projected itself as a hip, youth-oriented learning center where youngsters can have a lot of fun while studying.  For its marketing effectiveness, the event merited the prestigious Gold Quill award from the International Association of Business Communicators the following year.

One ingredient of AHEAD’s success is their delivery of results.  It is the first and only center in the country to publish a passers’ list in national dailies.  Since its first year, it has maintained the highest passing rate in the college entrance exams of top universities.  Tutees who do not achieve improvement in their grades can even get their money back.  AHEAD believes in value for money.  It is not afraid to charge higher than most review centers because it is confident of its services.  It doesn’t compete on price, only on quality.

AHEAD also leads in individualized service.  It tries to accommodate each client’s unique needs and learning style.  This is why customer satisfaction is very high, with 60% of their students referred by previous clients.  Parent organizations and school administrators also recognize the effectiveness of AHEAD’s programs.  A few years ago, the parent councils of Ateneo and Xavier chose the review center to prepare their sons for college entrance exams.  La Salle Greenhills, St. Mary of the Woods, Lourdes School of Mandaluyong, and Brent School have likewise endorsed AHEAD.

The Asia-Pacific excellence award is an addition to the review center’s roster of awards in education, business, and marketing communication.

An Entrepreneur in Education?

Seldom do we purposefully mix business and education.  Perhaps it is because we have been taught to view education as a service, a vocation even.  Few of us realize, however, that schools and other learning centers need to earn money in order to survive.  Without income, they would not be able to hire good teachers, improve facilities, and develop a sound curriculum for their students. Education’s nobleness is not diminished even as many schools achieve financial stability.

Rossana Llenado, president of AHEAD Tutorial & Review, is not ashamed to say she uses business smarts to run her learning center.  “It’s not exploiting education for profit,” she explains.  “It’s using practical business sense to maximize what you have so you can give students what they need.

Indeed, operating an academic center these days is not all heart.  A school administrator, aside from being service-oriented, has to know what to invest on, where to put her money.  She has to know how to use her resources wisely so that she can extend the highest quality instruction to her enrollees.

Llenado’s contribution to the advancement of quality education through tutorials and review classes was recognized last May 1, 2004 by the Asia-Pacific Awards Committee at the AFP Theater.  She was given the Asia-Pacific Excellence Award for Young Professionals in Education.  For Llenado, the recognition is another motivation for her to strive in her chosen line of service.  “Many may still not be convinced by tutorial and review courses, but I know we are on the right track when our students start getting better grades and qualify to good schools,” she says.

Under her leadership, AHEAD has extended to review book publishing, foreign language teaching, and test preparation for U.S. exams such as SAT, TOEFL, GMAT, GRE, and IELTS.  It now has branches in Loyola Heights, Greenhills, SM Megamall, and Robinsons Galleria and conducts college review classes in Makati, Alabang, and Manila.

Apart from AHEAD, Llenado is also directing WorldPrep, a preschool in Loyola Heights, Quezon City. Fuelled by her desire to further develop her educational services, she recently enrolled in the educational administration graduate program of the Ateneo de Manila University.

Llenado is also the recipient of Philam Life’s Ilaw ng Karunungan award, Ulirang Ina award, Gintong Sikap award for education, and Entrepreneur Magazine’s Entrepreneur 10 award.  Five years from now, when she’s 40, she dreams of sending scholars to teacher-training colleges.

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